Rod held at the ready, gripping the tail of a deadly nightshade red gill adorning a 6/0 hook, I waited expectantly for the skipper to give the order to drop.
‘Right lads, down you go!’ came the voice from the cabin, triggering a quick response from the ten sets of gear swaying back and forth over some two hundred feet of water.
No-one spoke, too intent on what was happening below, as the leads streaked towards the seabed and the wreck that we had glimpsed on the skipper’s console.
Then they touched bottom. I counted up some twenty five turns and released the lead to dive to the floor yet again. Nothing happened so I tried a slightly faster retrieve, giving a little spurt of energy to drive the vibrations from the lure into a slightly higher tempo.
And the rod hung up, seized and held by a tremendous force that curved the rod double and resisted any attempt to get it moving.
‘You’ve hooked the wreck,’ came the voice of the crew. ‘Swing it over here and I’ll break it free.’
Break it free? Not a chance. I could feel the tension far below and the resistance from what was clearly a heavy, but organic, weight. I shook my head, only to find the crewman reaching out to grab the line.
I moved the rod firmly then, putting on a considerable amount of pressure, recovering a little line in the process. Then, to everyone else’s surprise, the end of the rod gave not one but a series of determined nods, the hallmark of a good cod.
‘See,’ said the crew, getting ready to tell an absolute whopper, ‘I told you it was a fish. You want to stop mucking around and bring it up.’
That was the start of a test of strength that finally saw a beautiful cod broach the surface some thirty minutes later, spiralling up through the water in a stream of bubbles as it turned and tried to dive one final time. The crew, relegated to the sidelines as the skipper himself wanted to ‘do the honours’, muttered as the net sank below then scooped to the deck a prime cod, in excellent condition, weighing 25½ pounds.
Sadly, despite our best efforts, that fish was to remain the only cod of the day but it was then, and still is now, my best cod from either boat or shore. I thoroughly enjoyed catching it and I can understand why so many people target cod as the species that they would most like to catch. Nor, if I am being perfectly honest, was it difficult to catch. I fished for it in exactly the same way that I would for pollack but with a lure that I knew was also attractive to cod. (I had previously caught cod and bass on this particular shade of red gill so I knew it was in with a very good chance.)
Tackle was a basic flying collar rig set up with one of the integrated weights that I describe in the issue on pollack while around me people were experimenting with a variety of tackles which, while normally successful, were destined to failure on what was to prove a difficult day.
First drop down on a beautiful Summer's day. Who could wish for anything more?